The overthinking chatter going on inside my head is one of the biggest problems I struggle with as I learn to deal with uncertainty of life and the unpredictability of a career. Normally, it’s fine to have a pro/con debate about choices you want to make in life but so often I’ve found the overthinking to be associated with paralyzing negative thoughts. “No, you can’t do that!”, “that’s just not logical or reasonable” or “why take a chance?”, “stop dreaming and come down to reality”, are some of the things my mind says when it’s in hyper drive overthinking everything.
Overthinking makes you feel stuck
I needed to find a way to stop overthinking my life and career choices because all the over thinking didn’t do anything except make me more anxious and nervous about moving forward, causing me to get stuck on making important life choices. But over time I learned how to stop overthinking…or at least give it rest so I can move forward.
Here are 5 lessons I have learned on how to stop overthinking life and move forward in these uncertain, unpredictable, complex and fast times full of chaos:
1. Redirect the chatter to something more useful
Stop asking yourself if it will work, why things happen and if you should do something. Just do it. Go out and say yes to something new. Embrace a project, whether it’s starting a blog, starting a business or starting a relationship. Just begin and invest in it deeply. The mind needs something to focus and if you can’t give it that focus, it will go off in all different directions overthinking everything. So, give it something to focus on by working really hard on something you care about. Overthinking slows down when you work hard and go deep at either your job, your relationship or simply doing a task because you are engaged in something that needs your complete attention. From playing a sport to cleaning the house to engaging in your purpose, your cause or better yet, your work, intensely focused action is often the best way to redirect the hyper active mind to stop overthinking.
2. Know your rhythm and use it in your favor
My overthinking often happens more at night than during the day. If my mind starts a question, I’ll start overthinking on that question and take it from one thought to another, jumping around like crazy. Next thing you know, it’s 1am. So one of the things I started to do is to get up 20 minutes earlier each weekday morning and about 45 minutes earlier on the weekends. What this does is to make me really tired as the night approaches. This isn’t rocket science but it works for me. I’m so beat at about 10pm that my wife jokes about having to give me an early bird special for dinner! The other benefit of getting up a bit earlier is that I’m so much more productive and creative really early in the morning. Maybe its the coffee but over the last couple of years, I’ve gotten to know my own rhythm a little bit better and I use it in my favor to stop overthinking that can occur at night.
3. Set a time limit for surfing on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter
Like most of us these days, you want to check in to see what’s going on with Facebook, especially in the morning on the way to work or during the middle of the day. It sort of breaks up the monotony of the day. But I’ve often found that it feeds the overthinking and clutters the mind with thoughts that inhibit moving forward in life. Thoughts like, “How can this guy afford to do all that traveling?”, “I didn’t know he was a Republican/Democrat”, “Why is she posting these comments?”…and so on. It’s nice to see what people are up to but the mind can carry a quick view of the Facebook news feed and start turning it into useless gossip that makes you overthink about other people’s lives. And what that tends to do sometimes is to limit your own personal growth because the reference you have of others’ success or failures is based on a simple post on Facebook. By setting a time limit to spend on looking at updates for something like 10-15 minutes, I’ve found that the mind has less material to use, helping me to stop overthinking.
4. Take a “walk about”
I found that a lot of my overthinking happens because there is so much silence sitting in front of a laptop working away. The mind has nothing else to do but wander, wonder and delight at creating scenarios of a future yet to take place. By taking a ‘walk about’ around the block in the city during the day or going to the coffee shop or meeting someone for lunch, I found my mind being forced to focus on the present moment because you’re forced to react to things coming your way. Making an appointment on my calendar once a day to do that ‘walk about’ of something different than the typical routine has also helped me to stop overthinking.
5. Accept that no matter how smart you are, you cannot predict the future
So much of my overthinking used to be about trying to plan out my future. I would try to draw out lines for each potential path I wanted to take in my life and my career. I would try to think about all the possible things that might happen on each choice and that would lead my mind off on a tangent to something else until I would get so frustrated that I just threw up my hands giving up and putting on the TV to vegetate. It was crazy! So, I am slowly learning to stop drawing out the lines because I’ve come to realize that I am not that smart that I can predict what’s going to happen next. You just can’t plan anymore. There are so many different variables that affect situations at work or home life that it is just impossible to see what’s coming next. By accepting that overthinking a life decision or an issue is not helpful because I’m more likely to be wrong than right, I became more self aware and free to take action and move forward.
Accept. Don’t Overthink. Move Forward and Embrace the Chaos!
Embrace the Chaos! …a work and life blog by Bob Miglani, Author
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